Bachelor and bachelorette parties are a right of passage before the big wedding day. In fact, they are so popular that according to a study conducted by The Knot, 78% of brides-to-be had a bachelorette party and 70% of grooms-to-be had a bachelor party.
The difference in prevalence among brides and grooms is interesting, why is it that brides are more likely to have a bachelorette party over their grooms?
Do some women have a hard time with the idea of a bachelor party or is it that some guys just don’t want to go through the hassle? Although I don’t have the answer to that, I do however think there is something to be said about some difficult feelings that can show up for some people surrounding their partner’s bachelor/ette party.
There is a trope of the jealous girlfriend who forbids her boyfriend from attending his buddy’s bachelor party. Then there is the tradition of men going to strip clubs for the bachelor party, so difficult feelings may be valid, depending on the situation. Doing a google search about men’s bachelor parties and strip clubs gives you a peak into just how much this bothers some women. There are entire forums on wedding sites and reddit dedicated to discussing the problem.
Because strip clubs are a traditional part of men’s bachelor parties, there is a good chance this may come up for you or someone you know. Learning how to navigate this is important for this very reason. You don’t want to be pegged as the jealous partner who doesn’t allow their significant other to celebrate their bachelor/ette party.
Do you have to love the idea of your partner going to a gentlemen’s club while for a bachelor party? Not unless that’s your thing, in which case, rock on! I’d like to suggest that it could be a good idea to be ok with the concept, and here’s why: trying to control someone else’s actions can come off as a lack of trust. It can also read as controlling.
Unless your boyfriend has a history of cheating or you’ve been betrayed by him before, you probably don’t have a lot to worry about. If you find yourself overwhelmed by difficult feelings regarding your partner’s bachelor/ette party, you should absolutely discuss it with them. Not discussing it invites miscommunication, passive aggression, control, and jealousy into the room. These are not guests we want looming over these types of events.
He Got Invited to a Strip Bar Bachelor Party, What Do I Do?
In relationships, it’s important to be able to talk about difficult topics that bring up complicated feelings. Rather than saying “no” right off the bat, stop and ask yourself, “why am I having this reaction?”
A part of it might be culture; bachelor parties in films and media are portrayed as wild and out of control. The reality is that most bachelor parties are more benign than Hollywood would have you believe.
When the topic comes up, an appropriate reaction would be something like, “thanks for letting me know, would you be open to discussing this further?” This allows you to set the scene for a conversation around expectations, trust, and boundaries.
If you find yourself having big feelings about it, first try to clarify what is coming up for you and why. If you determine that your emotions should be shared, allow yourself to be vulnerable. I know it’s hard, but vulnerability will almost always pay off in the end. Calmly state something like, “you know, I’m having a reaction that I wasn’t prepared for, I’d like to discuss that with you.”
If big emotions come, try not to be accusatory, own your own feelings. Make it about why this is difficult for you. Vulnerability is difficult but it helps increase feelings of trust and closeness, which is what you want in situations like this.
How to set boundaries
Once you’ve been informed that a bachelor/ette party is happening, it’s totally valid and ok to set reasonable expectations and boundaries around the trip. Talk about what you’re comfortable with and what would make you feel uncomfortable. Discuss expectations around communication during the trip. Discuss what types of venues and activities are planned and discuss what type of behavior is acceptable/unacceptable.
Everyone’s a little different, you’ll want to clarify what works for you and your relationship while balancing what’s workable. When it comes to negotiating boundaries like this, I cannot stress how important compromise is going to be. Especially in cases where you and your partner may not be aligning or easily coming to an agreement.
Couples therapy icons, Drs John and Julie Gottman, have a great formula for compromise. It goes like this:
- Figure out your inflexible area or core need on the issue.
- Figure out your flexible areas on the issue.
- Ask questions like:
- Help me understand your inflexible areas.
- What are your core feelings, beliefs, or values about this issue?
- What do we agree about?
- What are our common goals?
- What feelings do we have in common?
- How can I help meet your core needs?
Coming to a compromise may help you feel better about the whole situation. The important part is that you discuss this before the trip, don’t fall into the trap of mind reading by thinking, “he should know what my expectations are.” Speak to them, don’t assume he knows.
A compromise might look like, “Ok, I can understand that you want to go to the strip club but no lap dance” or “I’m comfortable with a lap dance, I’m not comfortable with touching.” Remember, try to work together on a compromise that works for both of you. He gets to go have fun and you get the peace of mind that he knows what your expectations are.
A word of caution: jealousy, one of the most common emotional reactions associated with bachelor parties, thrives off of unclear and vague communication. In other words, jealousy increases and ferments when it’s not spoken about, which often creates bigger problems down the road. The antidote to this is to move from implied expectations of what your boyfriend should/should not do to explicit agreements on what’s ok and what’s not.
Let’s address the jealousy monster
One of the most common emotional reactions to bachelor parties (and strip clubs) is jealousy. Jealousy is a complex emotional reaction in response to a perceived threat to a valued relationship. Basically, it’s a belief that a valued relationship will be interrupted by another person, either imagined or real. It’s a painful feeling that can show up even in the most confident of people.
Ones’ experience with jealousy is often informed by our past, our culture, and upbringing. We are socialized to believe that jealousy is a terrible emotion (hence jealousy monster), when in reality jealousy is an important emotion in that it shows us what relationships we highly value. Jealousy is a paradox, a little can be beneficial, too much can irreparably harm relationships. Remember how I wrote that jealousy is a complex emotion? Well here are some related emotions that jealousy tends to draw out when it’s present:
- Sexual Arousal (believe it or not, jealousy can be quite the aphrodisiac)
How to cope with feelings of jealousy
What should you do if after all this you’re still struggling with difficult feelings? There are several skills and techniques you can try to help you cope with these painful emotions.
The first step is to identify what you’re feeling, so ask yourself, “when I think of my boyfriend on the bachelor trip, what comes up?” Pay particular attention to any sensations in your body – tight chest, flushed face, sweaty palms, increased breathing. This can help identify the feeling. For example, you may feel anger in your chest or experience tense sensations throughout your body. You may feel jealousy in your heart area – a tightness or constriction. Once you know what you’re feeling you have some options about how to deal with it.
So how do we work with jealousy? The work is in normalizing and validating jealous thoughts and reworking jealous behaviors so they are relationally productive instead of destructive. We also want to work on fostering compersion, or, joy for another’s joy.
In the context of what we are talking about here, compersion would look like being happy at your partner’s excitement about getting to celebrate with his buddies, even if jealousy is present. Don’t focus on turning your jealousy into compersion but rather, making it a, “yes, and” situation. “Yes, I am noticing some feelings of jealousy about my boyfriend’s bachelor party and I am so happy that he is excited about spending time with his closest friends.” If you can cultivate compersion, jealousy will shrink.
Below are some more practical skills that you can apply to jealousy as well as other difficult emotions that may show up in this context.
Notice, Name, and Normalize that Jealousy Monster
One of my favorite ways to deal with difficult feelings is to open up and make room for them. The emotions themselves are not the problem, the problem is if you act on the emotion in a problematic way (e.g., accuse your boyfriend of doing something nefarious without concrete evidence).
The best way to process an emotion is to feel it and understand that while the emotion may be uncomfortable, it’s not going to hurt you. The dialogue in your head is not always based in fact, this is especially true when big emotions are present. It can help to notice the big feeling, give it a name such as “the jealousy monster,” and normalize your experience with it by saying to yourself, “it makes sense that I may be feeling this way, my mind is just trying to protect me.”
Finally, just allow the emotion to be, don’t judge it or act on it, just let it be and it will pass through in its own good time. You can use this same concept for jealousy’s friends I identified above, ask yourself, “what feelings is my jealousy bringing along today?”
This skill is not as easy, as simple as it may seem, but it is effective. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes. A good way to practice is to try this with less intense emotions first.
How to “Check the Facts”
Another handy tool is called “Check The Facts” from DBT skills. This skill is handy if you’re confused about whether your emotion accurately fits the situation. This is a useful strategy for people who aren’t sure if their feelings totally fit the situation (i.e., you don’t actually have a problem, it just feels like you have a problem).
For example, feeling suspicious of your boyfriend’s bachelor party when there’s never been a reason to be suspicious of him or his behavior.
Here are the steps to check the facts:
- Ask yourself: “What is the emotion I want to change?”
- Ask yourself: “What is the event prompting my emotion?”
- Ask yourself: “What are my interpretations, thoughts, assumptions about the event?”
- Think about other interpretations of the events.
- Practice looking at all sides of a situation and all points of view.
- Test your interpretations and assumptions to see if they fit the facts.
- Ask yourself: “Am I assuming a threat?
- Label the threat.
- Assess the probability that the threat will actually occur.
- Think of as many possible outcomes.
- Ask yourself: “What’s the catastrophe?”
- Imagine the catastrophe really occurring.
- Imagine coping well with a catastrophe.
- Ask yourself: “Does my emotion and/or its intensity fit the actual facts?”
- For jealousy that would be: A very important relationship in your life is in danger of being lost or damaged.
- Someone is threatening to take a valued relationship from you.
Checking the facts is helpful for when you don’t know if your emotion actually fits with what’s going on. Opening up and making space for the emotion is for when you know that you may be overreacting a bit but you’re struggling with the feeling. If after trying these skills you still feel like you’re unsure, maybe it means that there’s a greater issue with trust present.
How do I know if this is a bigger trust issue?
If you find yourself really struggling with the idea of your boyfriend going on a bachelor trip even after discussing it, setting boundaries, and doing some introspection; it could point to a bigger issue. You want to tease out whether this is a “you problem” (something that you need to address individually) or a relational problem.
If you find that it’s a problem that you are struggling with because it brings up insecurities, past trauma, or jealousy/trust issues to which your partner has not contributed or is the cause of, then you are going to have to work through this mostly on your own. Individual therapy can be a game changer here. You can learn skills to improve your confidence/self-esteem, learn how to be more independent in your relationship, and heal past traumas that may be triggering these big feelings. You will also learn coping skills to deal with these feelings whenever they bubble up. You’ll learn how to ask for support and reassurance when needed but not to the point it becomes too much for your partner.
If you find that you don’t trust your partner given a past betrayal or they have given you reasons to be weary, this is where couple’s therapy can really help. You may think to yourself, “I’m not going to couples therapy for something as benign as a bachelor party!” I argue that if something as “benign” as this can question the trust you have in your partner, it’s not so benign.
Couples therapy can be a great way to learn about your partner; their beliefs and values on important issues. You’ll learn how to better communicate, increase intimacy, and nurture trust. You’ll even learn how to fight fairly and effectively because let’s face it people, conflict is a part of all relationships! It’s important to know how to repair conflict and bounce back from fights. Often, lack of trust and pathological jealousy (that is, jealousy that is unworkable and creating problems in the relationship) are the main players that show up in the room with issues like bachelor parties. If a bachelor party is bringing up all of these complicated feelings, chances are there is more beneath the surface that needs some attention.
Bachelor parties are synonymous with weddings. The two go hand-in-hand, chances are at some point, those of us in relationships will experience our partners attending one.
Complicated feelings around the topic are normal, fueled by culture and media, but something that is considered normal can quickly become toxic if you’re not careful. Remember, the feelings you have are understandable and not usually problematic. It’s when we act on those feelings and begin to negatively impact ourselves and those around us that it does become a problem.
If your partner is going to a bachelor party, follow the tips above to help you better navigate the situation. If you feel overwhelmed by the big feelings that come up, ask yourself if you are well resourced enough to handle it on your own or with your support system. If you find that this is not the case, perhaps we are looking at a deeper issue here and therapy can be transformative.
More Interesting Reads on Sex and Intimacy
Couples who talk about sex, have better sex. Read an LGBTQ+ couples therapist’s 6 tips for how to better talk about sex.
Desire discrepancies are one of the most frequent challenges couples face and it’s a common topic in couples counseling. Learn more about it and how to get in the mood.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to strengthen a relationship is by going on dates. Need ideas? Check out our 13 date night recommendations in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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